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Cub Tracks packs the bags

Heyward’s blast, Willy’s exit velo, the big bang, and other bullets

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Fridays we’ll have either Cub Tracks or Baseball History. On this occasion, we’ll have a Cub Tracks as the history disappeared behind a cloud of smoke.

Awaitin’ for the train that goes home, sweet Mary, hopin’ that the train is on time

Sittin’ downtown in a railway station, one toke over the line

My second-favorite holiday. Tomorrow, it’ll be seeds and stems again, but today...strictly in honor of Colorado, you understand...

I’ll drop it there, as it’s likely to get heavy, like my eyelids. After the Visine commercial, we’ll get to the news. As always * means autoplay on (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Cubs news and notes:

“Good approach, good at-bats. It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field -- I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.” — Joe Maddon via Carrie Muskat.

How’s it going so far? Not great, but we are talking about three starts. Darvish spun a gem against the Brewers on April 7 at Miller Park, when he struck out nine and limited Milwaukee to one run on two hits and a walk in six innings of a win. But in his other two starts -- against the Marlins and Braves -- Darvish surrendered nine earned runs on 14 hits in nine innings, with a pedestrian ratio of eight strikeouts to six walks.

What’s on deck? Warmer weather, hopefully. Darvish’s most recent start against the Braves was his home debut, and he wore short sleeves for a 42-degree first pitch. His next scheduled start on Saturday in Denver won’t be much warmer, and then it’s back to Wrigley Field for a rematch with the Brewers.

”I was surprised how cold it was, but I told myself I’ll perform better if the weather is colder,” Darvish said. “When I was on the mound, I didn’t feel any cold.”

Number to know: 94.3 mph, the average velocity of Darvish’s first 120 four-seam fastballs in 2018, according to Statcast™. That’s identical to his average in ‘17 -- a positive sign, considering it is so early in the season, and Darvish’s most recent start came in the cold. —- Adam McCalvy.

  • Chicago Tribune {$}: Cubs’ Bricks & Ivy Ball at Navy Pier. (photos) Raised 1.8 million.
  • Sam Fels (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Showing your Hickey: A look at some early-season walk rates. “...Hickey wants everyone throwing their fastballs a bit more, and he wants them working both sides of the plate a little more often.”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs hope Jon Lester’s strong outing can help get starting rotation going. “Everybody looks good on paper,” Lester said at the start of camp. “But we still have to show up and pitch, still have to do our job.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Poor playing conditions could follow Cubs to Denver. “I heard more snow in Denver possibly,” Kyle Hendricks said.
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Willson Contreras leads team in exit velocity improvement, followed closely by Jason Heyward. “...Willie’s 95.8 MPH average is 3rd best in MLB (60 PA minimum).”
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): As Cubs search for rhythm, hold the declarations on this season for a while. “I don’t think you can really evaluate much so far,” Jed Hoyer said.
  • Craig Edwards (Fangraphs): The Cubs just can’t find a leadoff hitter.”Finding an ideal candidate to hit leadoff for the Cubs has been difficult since the team allowed Dexter Fowler to depart via free agency after their championship season.”
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): The ascension of Javy Baez...into Manny Ramirez? “...the moment he starts laying off the down-and-away slider, he’s Manny Ramirez.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Javier Baez an immediate spark atop Cubs’ lineup. “I wanted to get some energy at the top,” Maddon said about why he moved Baez up.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs to limit Ian Happ’s leadoff appearances for now. “My main thought is to talk to Chili every day, and to Ian, and see how they’re feeling about things,” Maddon said.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Maddon giving Happ time to work through woes. “I really like the way this guy is. He’ll work through it. I like the plan Chili has set forth for him,” said Maddon. Patrick Mooney adds on {$}.
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Joe Maddon expects the high fastball to put a dent in the fly ball revolution soon. “I think the launch angle is going to become less prominent with the elevated fastball,” he said.
  • Todd Johnson (Cubs Insider): Do the Cubs have a lefty shortage in the minors? “It depends on what kind of lefty you want.”
  • Vicki Snow Jurkowski (Chicago Tribune {$}): Ron Coomer opens Coom’s Corner Sports Grill in Lockport, hopes to be a hit with Cubs and Sox fans.

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading. This week in baseball history tomorrow.